With the official start of spring coming on March 21, you might be dreaming of warmer days and fresher food and of sticking to that resolution you made back in January to eat more sustainably.
One way to do this is to become a CSA member (Community Supported Agriculture), an increasingly popular way to buy local, seasonal produce directly from a farmer. With a CSA you buy “shares” from a farmer that you pay for up front to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation. In return, you get a box of fresh vegetables that is usually delivered each week.
Depending on the area you live in, and where the farm is, i.e. urban vs. rural, you can either pick up the box at the farm, or a certain pick-up location, which is delivered to on specific days and times.
CSAs have evolved and many farmers now offer more options than just a pre-filled box. This includes bringing a variety of what’s in season so that their members can choose their own favorites and letting them fill their own box. Or, they partner with another farmer or farmers to offer items that they don’t produce. Some are also bringing their CSA boxes to local farmers’ markets to make it even easier for their members to pick them up and get exactly what they want.
And, other items are now being offered through CSAs including meat, eggs, cheese, flowers, fruit and even homemade preserves or baked goods.
The whole idea behind a CSA is that it becomes a community farm. The community not only gets the benefits of reconnecting to the land and directly participating in food production and helping the farmer receive better prices for their crops. But, it also means sharing in the risks that go along with farming; from bad weather to pest problems.
Not only does the CSA provide you with the freshest local food around, but it offers you the chance to try new vegetables and to learn new ways to prepare them. And, most farmers open up their farms to their members at least once during the season, and many even let them come and help harvest if they want to.
While it is a simple way to get fresh local food, it is not affordable for everyone. In the US, a typical CSA subscription ranges between 400-600 dollars per season (between 15 to 20 weeks depending on location) for a weekly box that feeds two people. One way to make it more affordable is to share your CSA subscription with a friend or family member.
Some CSAs also offer a variety of payment plans to give members some flexibility in paying for their shares, such as installments, sliding scale fees or scholarship shares. Some are even geared towards low-income residents and are organized as part of regional food banks.